Saturday, November 26, 2011


The dust has now well and truly settled from the August 21 climax of World Youth Day in Madrid - a Mass celebrated by the Pope attended by some 2 million pilgrims. As one of them I can say it was awesome. It was also exhausting given I lost my bed after heading off to find water etc and spent the wee hours of my 60th birthday roaming around in the dark, trying to avoid falling over fellow pilgrims.

This article gives an idea of some of the adventures in Spain..

(Pictured above) The happy Aussie wanderer at Toledo is found and claimed by a group of Brazilian  pilgrims

At least one poem had to emerge from all this, and it did. So here we go:

Spanish soil/Spanish soul

(El corazón de España)

España - mesmeric matador!!
Swirl your cape of colours
swirl red and orange,
launch ambushes of colour from
bus stops, billboards, anywhere
down these drowsy Aussie streets.

Hail God-burnt country -
now burning in the heart
still blazing in the mind;
ecstatic envoy, hail:
fevered and fervoured,
fantastic, yet focused as
El Greco the great at Toledo.

Slumbering Aussie, me,
awake, alive at last
wandering, wondering
this time-allotted grace
glimpsing traces of your
spirit-south: Cordoba,
Pedro Abad and Montoro.

Sensing your soul
flagging but immortal yet -
fading/flaring into view,
battered yet bounding bull,
searing orange supernova,
white hot even, in afternoon sun -
sizzling synapses to Madrid…

Fitful pulse throb beneath
scar tissue carved and
flapping loose – like the
scorched remaining arm of the
Homeless’ Christ, glass-encased,
redeemed in 800-year-old
Civil War-sacked Church.

Holy Toledo!!
Roaming with Brazilian pilgrims
who’ve adopted me
lone Aussie wanderer:
quixotic quintessence.
Tilting towards insanely
immaculate heights

I walk the cobblestones
where once El Greco walked,
till lost and all alone once more
I wander crazed in heat,
plummeting above chasms
portraying water above which
wheel wordless birds -

Ecstatic mutes
like St Teresa, St John of the Cross -
creation’s highest flyers
touching down on castle walls
at mighty Ávila this very day -
Teresa’s gaze dissolving earthly chains
John’s heart-hand bearing eloquence…

Recalling living love
aboard a bus from Pedro Abad
where Pura my host will always fare me well
from ancient laneway far below -
eyes locking mine, hand held to heart
my own forever held alive and burning
on Spanish soil long as life persists.

Monday, July 4, 2011

From Brisbane to World Youth Day Madrid

Pilgrims - who isn't one when it comes down to it? Me? I'm going on a structured pilgrimage to report at World Youth Day Madrid 2011 It will start somewhere around August 12 in the little town of Pedro Abad south of Cordoba and thence move onto Madrid where I'll share my 60th birthday with some 2 million souls on an airfield at an open air Mass celebrated by the Pope. Below is the introduction to an article I wrote on the impending adventure.

IN my 60th year "towards heaven" - to appropriate part of a phrase from one of Dylan Thomas' most famous poems - I'm about to embark on a pilgrimage.
It's the most major of my intentional pilgrimages - the only others I can recall being an all-night prayer vigil in honour of Our Lady at Three Springs about 300km north of Perth in 1975, and a solo journey from Lismore, NSW, to Western Australia in a then 31-year-old "shovel nose" Toyota Corona in 1995.
A couple of years back, when I announced my intention to become a World Youth Day pilgrim to Madrid in 2011 to a fellow train passenger, he seemed baffled.
Quickly perceiving he felt my somewhat august years had removed me from the "youthful" category, I set him straight.
"In the eyes of eternity, my years are but a blink," I explained. What could he do but purse his lips, ponder and nod?

To read more just follow this link:

And so another exploration of what will no doubt be an intriguing detour. Hopes are for refreshment of vision and all the other goals of an intentional pilgrimage (as opposed to 'normal' life journey).

  • Right - me with some of the other Brisbane World Youth Day pilgrims on a trial walk testing out shoes etc on the way to Slaughter Falls at Mount Coot-tha (I'm the youngest one there.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Swooshing through Jan/Feb

Inevitably for a Brisbanite life went a bit crazy for the start of 2011 what with floods through here and Ipswich and a whopping great cyclone (Yasi) in the north to focus the mind. And there was more, sadly close to home, as you'll see...

Two parts to this. First a quick flick through the mad month of January, then a preview of an early section of one of the chapters from my 22-chapter novel "A Dirty Rainbow".

Part 1
  • New Year's Eve, big black dog attacks "Little O" the papillion; slows down plans to head to Mt Morgan (already on hold after having to turn back due to flooding on Bruce Highway north of Maryborough the day after Boxing Day)
  • January 3, finally on road, get through OK to Mt Larcom, huge downpour and tales of doom from Hollywood-style old timer in local hotel about getting washed away
  • Three days in the mount, beautiful weather then third night nearly four inch (95mm) downpour in an hour; also word of big rain for Moreton Bay area to south; leave a day early, just as well because highway through Gympie cut for three days - we're lucky to get through to Brisbane
  • Starting around January 11 a series of disasters - inland tsunami devastates Grantham, Ipswich goes under a day or so later and by the 12th Brisbane suburbs near river Oxley, Jindalee, St Lucia etc getting swamped (photo above shows Brisbane River shortly after its January 13 peak surging through the lower reaches of city buildings)
  • Then just as this getting cleaned up, on mother's 88th birthday January 25 she's found dead mid morning, sitting fully dressed in her favourite chair ready to go out for lunch with her sister - shock, sadness...
  • Days after this the drama continues with all eyes glued to Bureau of Meterology maps as  Cyclone Yasi equal in size to Hurricane Katrina approaches Queensland's north...
  • And so the year swooshes on with more flooding in Australia; a devastating earthquake in Christchurch (which we only visited last March) and of course the mind boggling tsunami in Japan.

Part 2

Chapter 14 – ROLLING ON THE DOWNS (extract from "A Dirty Rainbow")

“Well there’s two trains a-runnin’…”

The black-silver Transit van soared to a hilltop above bold splashes of golden sunflowers, waves of some throbbing purple crop, underlined by roadside wild flowers striped red and white.

“Yeah one runs at midnight/Other’s just for today…”

Wearing its new winter coat – a deep lustrous black with a flash of silver – the van was flying towards the yellow caterpillar goods train chomping its way through lush green plains, emptied of its cargo of wheat or whatever and heading back west for another bellyfull.

Digging the Butterfield Blues Band’s supercharged take on the old traditional number covered by Muddy Waters, Dylan, the Grateful Dead and godknows who else, Dirk was flying high and even faster.

“Yes, I wish I was a catfish/Swimming in the deep blue sea/ I’d have all you pretty women/fishing after me…”

Butterfield’s vocals smooth as butter riding above the joyful clamour, then a pause, nothing but thumping drums before Bloomfield’s whiplash guitar cut in, then the interplay with keyboards funking with a gutsy prettiness that sounded like, probably was, Al Kooper.

Dirk’d caught up to the train now…thinking of gritty Chicago blues, trains and blues, leaving woman blues, moving on blues…

Flocks of brilliant pink galahs, white sulphur-crested cockatoos and small yellow birds feeding off spilt roadside grain exploded in clouds as the Transit tore through. The van’s tyres caught a recent rain puddle, water splashing and spinning from the wheels, kaleidoscoping in the early morning sun.

Dirk looked at the speedo – 140 ks. The old 4.2 litre six could really haul, breathing easier than ever, sucking in the misty early morning air. And the new paint job. Shit…that must be good for another 10 ks an hour, sliding the beast more smoothly through the air! He eased back, the better to think as Butterfield’s harp wailed orgiastically towards some sort of resolution.

Another flock of birds – another multicoloured eruption. He thought of his stay on a relly’s wheat farm as a lad and of the birds – everywhere around the harvester - diving in all directions. “They’re not after the grain,” his stepfather’s normally silent brother had told him. “Nope, it’s sure not the wheat. It’s the meat. All the insects and mice that are getting stirred up by the harvest. The birds are having a right old feast. All part of the big food chain. Lucky we’re on top.”

Dirk had shivered then, as he did now thinking about it all. He wasn’t so sure where he fitted in the great chain - normally didn’t even bother to think about it. These bloody tripping mushies certainly did things to the head…moved you into thought spaces you didn’t want to be.

He didn’t have a crystal ball – thankfully - in this thrilling, flashing, buzzing blue/ green/ yellow/ purple/ pink/ white and red sphere to foresee that, one day, not too far down the track, it’d be moments like this – just the hope of these sparkling days returning - that would sustain him through the long grey stretches. He couldn’t know then either that a drought was just around the corner – one that would ravage and suck the life from this paradise for two decades.

And there were other dark forces afoot. Those not nature-born. Fact, if he’d strained his ears past the joyous blast he might have picked up a monotonous droning, getting closer. A faint, but ever increasing monotonous hum. It was the drone of ever proliferating ‘servers’ that would find ways to stop random movements of these gentlemen of the road and their kinfolk. Dirk didn’t realize of course that he was one of a dying breed. Powers that be were working on ways to ensure that the lower ranks would never again enjoy such freedom.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2011 - through a cloud brightly

The remnants of 2010 are gently washing away on the tides of this soggy muggy Boxing Day as I attempt to peer through at least some of the clouds covering most of Queensland in the wake of Cyclone Tasha to piece together a cloak of dreams and hopes on which to fly through the brightest of blue-sky new years (wow that's a few metaphors mixed).

Some of the pieces of this cloak are as follows – the actual flying, well that’s another matter:

  • My novel "A Dirty Rainbow" has been completed to schedule during travel on the work-bound train these past months. Turns out to be a far bumpier ride for the hero Dirk Vortex. He loses everything - even the Whirlwind decals off his van as he leaves his shattered family, hits the highway on some sort of spiritual journey to patch together a new life, maybe even with his old bandmate Ronkey who's teaching English in Cambodia.The conclusion sees him atop a groyne bashed by wild seas, its red and white lighthouse a well known landmark. It's an ambiguous slightly cosmic ending with angels playing a part and a final appearance by the nymph. Now the novel's completed, version two's been started and is about half way through. When the drafting's over, it's on to a professional editor and finally, let's hope in 2011 on to a publisher.

  • My longtime journo mate and former colleague John Rumney (pictured right,worked with on Sunshine Coast Daily in early 80s) has contacted me, asking if I'm interested in working on a joint project proposal to put to the Queensland Poetry Festival organisers. Seems he wants to work around my poem on the Go Between Bridge. Would also work the Kipling poem "If" which he's put to music into the performance. He's got a top jazz drummer and a bassist in mind for the proposed project.Thus inspired I attempted to contact ex Go Between Robert Forster to see if he was interested in being involved (gotta think big) believing he may be in Brisbane. His manager contacted me, said Robert's in Germany but would forward my proposal. Thus singer's involvement is unlikely but John and I will forge on at any rate.
  • Other projects - aiming to do more sourcing of material for next project on poems and prose (Go Between will be a centrepiece) around the theme of "place" which I'll be dedicating to Japanese haiku master Basho. Also aiming to do more visits of schools with Kurilpa Poets after this year's success at St Columba's at Caboolture. Then there's the need to get out to markets and sell the "Soul Healing Afoot/Dead Dad Bye" books.
At any rate to anyone who happens to be reading this, may your dreams and goals too come true in 2011. Finally, turning to the words of Milton Berle for guidance: "If the path to success looks closed, build a door."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Emoting into the void & State Library answers

Somewhere in the late 80s on a wet and windy night in Mullumbimby northern NSW I found myself on the back of a truck, taking turns with fellow poets to blurt my poetic outbursts into the dark. Blinded by a bright light playing on the truck-back stage, it felt as if I was emoting into a void, not sure how many or even if anyone was actually out there. Which brings me to this post...

The audience is a bit less obscure than that night in Mullum since the State Library contacted me and asked to buy my two poetry books War Spoils and The Siren of Shop 19 and other versions of modern verse. I contacted Carreen there, queried the reason for the interest and was told something about the State Library having a collection of Queensland writers that showed some "special creativity". Anyway, dropped the books in about a week back. Tried also to sell Soul Healing Afoot/Dead Dad Bye but was told the library already had it. No idea how all this came about but suspect it was a good word from someone well placed there.

Mirusia's arrival in Brisbane in the past days has also been a bright spot. She was one of those to whom I dedicated SHA/DDB and finally a photo exists of us with the book after she visited with parents for a curry night at Banoon  Drive.

As for actual writing - plenty of that or at any rate editing is happening as I work towards completing a first draft of my novel A Dirty Rainbow. To reach this state of completion by year end was one of the goals I set myself at the start of 2010. Quite a mammoth task going back through the 17 or whatever chapters to get myself back in the place where I can write the final three (which at least are more or less planned).

Pic: Mirusia and me. She inspired? Dubious?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stumble steps

This is it...the start of what I hope is a beautiful friendship with lovers of poetry other than myself. As the weeks, months, centuries unfold I'd like to explore what's sparking you and me. Right now me-wise I've only just discovered the Eels and Mark Everett ...certainly a blast.

Have also with my group the Kurilpa Poets (seven of us) in the past weeks performed our work before about 180 Year 11 kids at a Caboolture school (about 45 min drive north of Brisbane). Got some great feedback - one kid wrote "How do you do this", teachers really positive - so we're aiming to spread the love (of the word) to other schools. Teachers saying most novel for kids to see actual living practitioners of writing  rather than just sit looking at a screen with words....

In terms of writing two projects:
1: Complete novel "A Dirty Rainbow" about a vacuum cleaner salesman trying to
keep his family, and his aging sales van, together while the hire purchase people chase him for payments
2. Pondering next poetry book to do with poems and prose of place - hence title of this blog.

By the way my website address is and details of available books of my work are there.